WineInk: Château Margaux pays a visit to Aspen
February 24, 2019
In life, if we are very lucky, we may get to enjoy a few peak experiences.
Skiing Aspen Mountain on a powder Tuesday, courtside seats for a game seven or trekking to Machu Picchu may resonate for some. But for wine lovers, the experience of an epic tasting, say an evening enjoying the classics of Bordeaux's Château Margaux, would rank very high on the peak scale.
On Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., Element 47 in The Little Nell hotel in Aspen will provide a rare and rarefied opportunity for a lucky few to taste through eight wines from the first growth Bordeaux property with vintages spanning three-plus decades from 1982 to 2015. The evening will feature a few renowned wines of the flagship Bordeaux paired with cuisine from executive chef Matt Zubrod's kitchen.
While a reservation to the event will cost $2,000 (plus tax and tip), diners will not only taste these wines along with the specially prepared meal, they will also be able to interact with both Margaux's managing director, Aurelian Valance, who will be making a special trip for the dinner, and The Little Nell's director of wine and master sommelier, Carlton McCoy.
"Anyone can purchase a bottle of Château Margaux, but the experience becomes much more personal with our two unique perspectives," McCoy said, emphasizing the special aspects of an evening that brings experts and diners together in an intimate setting. "The value from a guest perspective is the opportunity to learn from Aurelian Valance and myself."
As one of the first four wines designated as first-growths in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, Château Margaux (Mouton-Rothschild was elevated in 1973) is considered a pillar in the world of fine wines. Not only does it have a history dating back as far as the mid-1400s, but it also has consistently produced wines that have defined the single most important wine region on Earth, Bordeaux, and arguably the most important red wine grape, cabernet sauvignon.
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The 650-acre estate is located on what is known as the Left Bank, the area whose wines are led by cabernet sauvignon and is well-known for the iconic columns that mark the entrance to the main building. It is owned and operated by Corinne Mentzelopoulos, who took over as head of Château Margaux in 1980 after the passing of her father, who purchased the estate in 1977.
"Château Margaux represents the very best of what Bordeaux has to offer. They have consistently created the greatest wines of the appellation," McCoy said with admiration.
For some chefs, the task of pairing a meal with such esteemed wines would prove daunting. However, chef Zubrod is not easily intimidated.
"On the contrary, I find (the challenge) to be intriguing," he said with confidence as he previewed his menu for the evening. "I enjoy discussing these processes with Carlton and my executive sous-chef, Keith Theodore. We'll pair lobster and caviar with the sauvignon blanc (the 2009 and 2015 Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux) for the first course and game birds with Bordeaux blends (2004 and 2009 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux) for the second course."
These wines are exceptional examples of the estate's depth and quality.
But for chef Zubrod, the meat of the meal, no pun intended, will occur later in the evening. "Truthfully, what I am most excited to see is our Emma Farms CMC Wagyu with truffles paired with the rare vintages," he said, referring to the 1996 and 1999 Château Margaux flagship wines that will be poured with the main course. "For the fourth and final course, per the request of the winemaker, we'll offer exceptional cheese from France: Comte, Cantal and mimolette paired with Château Margaux 1990 and 1982."
McCoy is equally enthused about the pairings. "We are excited to have many great vintages sourced from the Château. The 1982 is sure to be a showstopper!"
Indeed, Robert Parker, the great American chronicler of Bordeaux wines, whose influence and expertise in the region is incalculable, wrote of the 1982 vintage: "Very full-bodied, with remarkable levels of extract and tannins, this is probably the largest scaled, most concentrated Château Margaux under the Mentzelopoulos administration," he exclaimed in 2003.
Then in 2009 he upped his analysis, noting, "The superb 1982 Margaux may be slightly bigger, bolder and more masculine than vintages produced over the last 15-20 years. Its dark plum/purple color is followed by notes of melted tar intermixed with sweet cassis and floral underpinnings. Very full-bodied and dense for a Château Margaux, with a slight rusticity to the tannins, it boasts blockbuster power, richness and impressive aromatics. It appears set for another 30-40 years of life."
Sounds very much like a peak experience, indeed.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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